cyn·​ic ˈsi-nik How to pronounce cynic (audio)
: a faultfinding captious critic
especially : one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest
Of course, there will always be cynics when companies make good-faith apologies and seek to follow through. Andrew Ross Sorkin
capitalized : an adherent of an ancient Greek school of philosophers who held the view that virtue is the only good and that its essence lies in self-control and independence
cynic adjective

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The ancient Greece school of philosophers known as Cynics was founded by Antisthenes, a contemporary of Plato. Antisthenes is said to have taught at a gymnasium outside Athens called the Kynosarges, from which the name of the school, kynikoi, literally, “doglike ones,” may be derived. On the other hand, the name is most closely associated with the most famous Cynic philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope. Diogenes rejected social conventions and declared that whatever was natural and easy could not be indecent and therefore can and should be done in public. This shamelessness earned him the Greek epithet ho kyōn, “the dog.” In English, however, cynic and cynical have more to do with distrust of motives than shamelessness.

Examples of cynic in a Sentence

He's too much of a cynic to see the benefits of marriage. A cynic might think that the governor visited the hospital just to gain votes. Reporters who cover politics often become cynics.
Recent Examples on the Web More money isn’t the golden path to more happiness, no matter what the cynics say. Letters To The Editor, Hartford Courant, 17 June 2024 Their selections paint a complicated picture, convening hopeful, patriotic idealists, righteous firebrands, and downtrodden cynics. The New Yorker, 12 June 2024 Its dramatic new looks make the days when cynics compared the Camry’s looks to a loaf of Wonder bread seem very long ago indeed. Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press, 19 Apr. 2024 Both Amman and Beirut have received substantial international aid in support of these refugees; cynics suggest that the refugees serve as yet another source of government rent. Foreign Affairs, 8 Dec. 2020 See all Example Sentences for cynic 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'cynic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle French or Latin, Middle French cynique, from Latin cynicus, from Greek kynikos, literally, like a dog, from kyn-, kyōn dog — more at hound

First Known Use

1542, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of cynic was in 1542

Dictionary Entries Near cynic

Cite this Entry

“Cynic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition


cyn·​ic ˈsin-ik How to pronounce cynic (audio)
: a person who distrusts people
especially : one who believes that people act only in self-interest

from early French cynique or Latin cynicus, both meaning "cynic," from Greek kynikos, literally, "like a dog"

Word Origin
In ancient Greece, a certain philosopher taught that virtue was the most important goal in life. He and his pupils openly scorned wealth and pleasure. Such a philosopher was called kynikos, which literally means "like a dog." One likely reason for this name is that the group's leader taught at a school with a name that began with the same letters as in the Greek word for "dog." It is also likely that many Greeks who used kynikos for these philosophers were offended by their rudeness. Cynic has been used in English since the 16th century for such philosophers. Once cynic had appeared in English, it wasn't long before it was applied to any faultfinding critic. Later, it was used chiefly of one who doubts the sincerity of all human motives except selfishness.

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